For most of the last decade or so, late-season match-ups between the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions have featured one team on its way to the playoffs or feverishly chasing a post-season berth against a team that had been eliminated a long time ago, and this year is no exception.
The difference is that this year, it's the Vikings that find themselves way out of it, and the Lions that are fighting for a place at the NFL's post-season table. The Lions started out 5-0, but have gone 2-5 since that point in the season, starting with a home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. After that game, Lions' coach Jim Schwartz attempted to chase down Niners coach Jim Harbaugh, who he thought was celebrating a little too hard for his liking at the post-game handshake.
Keep in mind, this is the same Jim Schwartz that gave this reaction when Jason Hanson kicked a field goal to defeat a Vikings' team that's currently 2-10 in overtime way back in Week 3.
Now, I can't read Schwartz's lips completely, but I think he mentioned that somebody's mom was a trucker, or something like that. In any event, I don't remember Leslie Frazier chasing him down afterwards.
During their recent 2-5 stretch, the Lions have become a reflection of their coach. . .seemingly completely lacking in self-control. We know about what happened with Ndamukong Suh on Thanksgiving Day, and things got worse against the New Orleans Saints last week, where the Lions committed numerous personal fouls. . .tight end Brandon Pettigrew even thought it would be a good idea to make contact with an official.
The Vikings can go toe-to-toe with the Lions. . .we saw that in that Week 3 match-up when the Vikings got off to a 20-0 halftime lead. Both of these teams have injuries, but they both still have the ability to put up points. The Vikings' advantage may come from the ability to possibly goad the Lions into doing something epically stupid. If the Vikings can manage to get ahead early and make the Lions press a little bit, the potential is there for them to come completely unglued.
All of the pressure is on the Detroit Lions in this one. . .the Vikings already know that they're playing for next season and are trying to give some young players some looks to see what they have going forward. Detroit, on the other hand, was one of the NFL's hottest stories in the early part of the season, and now run the risk of falling out of the NFC playoff picture entirely. If the past few weeks are any indication, that pressure is clearly starting to get to them, and one of the keys to this one for the Vikings could be their ability to use that to their advantage.
We're about three hours from kickoff, ladies and gentlemen. The Game Thread will be open in about an hour and a half, and we should have the inactive lists for both teams at around that time.